Crushing Babylon and the new intelligence wars: the rise of Black Reconnaisance

A brief break from writing profiles of Minnesota state House and Senate members for the book. I bring you a bit of the past and future wreckage of the Bush3 Administration... Also I have been sort of out of the loop on my usual things this week. Dan Schwartz sent me the Sy Hersh story that I totally missed, and for that I thank him.

If you ever wanted evidence that the Pentagon is a pathologically destructive force bent on destroying the past, present and future of the planet simultaneously, here you go. From the Beginning:

US-led troops using the ancient Iraqi city of Babylon as a base have damaged and contaminated artifacts dating back thousands of years in one of the most important archeological sites in the world, the British Museum said yesterday.

Military vehicles crushed a 2,600-year-old brick pavement, for example, and archeological fragments, including broken bricks stamped by King Nebuchadnezzar II around the same time, were scattered across the site, a museum report said.

The dragons at the Ishtar Gate were marred by cracks and gaps where someone tried to remove their decorative bricks, the paper said.

John Curtis, keeper of the British Museum's Near East department, who was invited by Iraqis to study the site, also found that large quantities of sand mixed with archeological fragments have been taken from the site to fill military sandbags.

''This is tantamount to establishing a military camp around the Great Pyramid in Egypt or around Stonehenge in Britain," Curtis said in the report.

In an interview yesterday with Associated Press Television News, Iraq's minister of culture, Mufeed al-Jazairee, said coalition troops in Babylon had used ''armored vehicles and helicopters that land and take off freely. In addition to that, the forces also set up other facilities and changes."

He added, ''I expect that the archeological city of Babylon has sustained damage, but I don't know exactly the size of such damage."

[....]

In the report, Curtis acknowledged that at first the US presence had helped to protect the site from looters.

But subsequent work, including the decision to cover large areas of the site with gravel brought in from elsewhere to provide parking lots and heliports, was damaging, he said.

Lord Redesdale, an archeologist who heads a parliamentary archeology committee, described the report's findings as ''just dreadful."

''Not only is what the American forces are doing damaging the archeology of Iraq, it's actually damaging the cultural heritage of the whole world," he said.

For more than 1,000 years, Babylon was one of the world's premier cities, where King Nebuchadnezzar II built the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

Meanwhile Seymour Hersh has a whole barrel of info for us about the planned unleashing of the Pentagon to 'prepare the battle space' around Iran. "Prepare the battle space" was one of my favorite creepy euphemisms for the strategic bombing campaigns they undertook just before the invasion of Iraq.

Ah yes, the weapons of mass destruction were never found. So why did Fallujah become an all-important social engineering project by force? Was the intent of this circus to demonstrate national will rather than secure the U.S. from actually dangerous materials? Yeah, of course it was. But it had something to do with Iran too. Before the war we were apparently going to use Iran against Saudi Arabia (yes, that seems to be why we marched into the Mesopotamian mousetrap) but now it's all gone to hell, and yet another brilliant scheme is At Hand.

Anyhow back to Hersh: the Bush Administration intends to attack the Iranian nuclear project complexes, and in fact has been running covert operations within Iran for quite a while. Also Defense Undersecretary of Batshit Madness Douglas Feith (not to be confused with Undersecretary of Fanatical Crusaderism William Boykin) is closely coordinating with the Israeli military to figure out which things to try and blow up.

Clearly this is yet another scheme which will unfold perfectly and only involve propaganda that isn't designed to mislead the American public. These are serious people here....

I thought that I would have some more stories for you today but I feel that this stuff is big enough to justify its own post. Yes, the national security state we all know and love is reconstituting itself in a new and more uncontrolled form. This is an exceedingly dangerous problem for those of us living Inside the Asylum.

I also saw some stories about how the Pentagon is going to conduct its own preemptive intelligence covert wars, operations, whatever the hell you call it these days. In this article it is called 'black reconnaissance' as a way of distancing it from the beloved old CIA label of 'covert operations.' Read Mr. Hersh... Sy, I'm sorry I quoted like half your story, but this one is too important not to enter into the record:

The President and his national-security advisers have consolidated control over the military and intelligence communities’ strategic analyses and covert operations to a degre unmatched since the rise of the post-Second World War national-security state. Bush has an aggressive and ambitious agenda for using that control—against the mullahs in Iran and against targets in the ongoing war on terrorism—durin his second term. The C.I.A. will continue to be downgraded, and the agency will increasingly serve, as one governmen consultant with close ties to the Pentagon put it, as “facilitators” of policy emanating from President Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney. This process is well under way.

[....]

“This is a war against terrorism, and Iraq is just one campaign. The Bush Administration is looking at this as a huge war zone,” the former high-level intelligence official told me. “Next, we’re going to have the Iranian campaign. We’ve declared war and the bad guys, wherever they are, are the enemy. This is the last hurrah—we’ve got four years, and want to come out of this saying we won the war on terrorism.”

[....]

Rumsfeld will become even more important during the second term. In interviews with past and present intelligence and military officials, I was told that the agenda had been determined before the Presidential election, and much of it would be Rumsfeld’s responsibility. The war on terrorism would be expanded, and effectively placed under the Pentagon’s control. The President has signed a series of findings and executive orders authorizing secret commando groups and other Special Forces units to conduct covert operations against suspected terrorist targets in as many as ten nations in the Middle East and South Asia.

The President’s decision enables Rumsfeld to run the operations off the books—free from legal restrictions imposed on the C.I.A. Under current law, all C.I.A. covert activities overseas must be authorized by a Presidential finding and reported to the Senate and House intelligence committees. (The laws were enacted after a series of scandals in the nineteen-seventies involving C.I.A. domestic spying and attempted assassinations of foreign leaders.) “The Pentagon doesn’t feel obligated to report any of this to Congress,” the former high-level intelligence official said. “They don’t even call it ‘covert ops’—it’s too close to the C.I.A. phrase. In their view, it’s ‘black reconnaissance.’ They’re not even going to tell the cincs”—the regional American military commanders-in-chief.

[....]

In my interviews, I was repeatedly told that the next strategic target was Iran. “Everyone is saying, ‘You can’t be serious about targeting Iran. Look at Iraq,’” the former intelligence official told me. “But they say, ‘We’ve got some lessons learned—not militarily, but how we did it politically. We’re not going to rely on agency pissants.’ No loose ends, and that’s why the C.I.A. is out of there.”

[.....]

There are many military and diplomatic experts who dispute the notion that military action, on whatever scale, is the right approach. Shahram Chubin, an Iranian scholar who is the director of research at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy, told me, “It’s a fantasy to think that there’s a good American or Israeli military option in Iran.” He went on, “The Israeli view is that this is an international problem. ‘You do it,’ they say to the West. ‘Otherwise, our Air Force will take care of it.’” In 1981, the Israeli Air Force destroyed Iraq’s Osirak reactor, setting its nuclear program back several years. But the situation now is both more complex and more dangerous, Chubin said. The Osirak bombing “drove the Iranian nuclear-weapons program underground, to hardened, dispersed sites,” he said. “You can’t be sure after an attack that you’ll get away with it. The U.S. and Israel would not be certain whether all the sites had been hit, or how quickly they’d be rebuilt. Meanwhile, they’d be waiting for an Iranian counter-attack that could be military or terrorist or diplomatic. Iran has long-range missiles and ties to Hezbollah, which has drones—you can’t begin to think of what they’d do in response.”

[...]

The Administration has been conducting secret reconnaissance missions inside Iran at least since last summer. Much of the focus is on the accumulation of intelligence and targeting information on Iranian nuclear, chemical, and missile sites both declared and suspected. The goal is to identify and isolate three dozen, and perhaps more, such targets that could be destroyed by precision strikes and short-term commando raids. “The civilians in the Pentagon want to go into Iran and destroy as much of the military infrastructure as possible,” the government consultant with close ties to the Pentagon told me. [....] The American task force, aided by the information from Pakistan, has been penetrating eastern Iran from Afghanistan in a hunt for underground installations. The task-force members, or their locally recruited agents, secreted remote detection devices—known as sniffers—capable of sampling the atmosphere for radioactive emissions and other evidence of nuclear-enrichment programs.

[....]

There has also been close, and largely unacknowledged, coöperation with Israel. The government consultant with ties to the Pentagon said that the Defense Department civilians, under the leadership of Douglas Feith, have been working with Israeli planners and consultants to develop and refine potential nuclear, chemical-weapons, and missile targets inside Iran. (After Osirak, Iran situated many of its nuclear sites in remote areas of the east, in an attempt to keep them out of striking range of other countries, especially Israel. Distance no longer lends such protection, however: Israel has acquired three submarines capable of launching cruise missiles and has equipped some of its aircraft with additional fuel tanks, putting Israeli F-16I fighters within the range of most Iranian targets.)

“They believe that about three-quarters of the potential targets can be destroyed from the air, and a quarter are too close to population centers, or buried too deep, to be targeted,” the consultant said. Inevitably, he added, some suspicious sites need to be checked out by American or Israeli commando teams—in on-the-ground surveillance—before being targeted.

The Pentagon’s contingency plans for a broader invasion of Iran are also being updated. Strategists at the headquarters of the U.S. Central Command, in Tampa, Florida, have been asked to revise the military’s war plan, providing for a maximum ground and air invasion of Iran. Updating the plan makes sense, whether or not the Administration intends to act, because the geopolitics of the region have changed dramatically in the last three years. Previously, an American invasion force would have had to enter Iran by sea, by way of the Persian Gulf or the Gulf of Oman; now troops could move in on the ground, from Afghanistan or Iraq. Commando units and other assets could be introduced through new bases in the Central Asian republics.

[....]

The immediate goals of the attacks would be to destroy, or at least temporarily derail, Iran’s ability to go nuclear. But there are other, equally purposeful, motives at work. The government consultant told me that the hawks in the Pentagon, in private discussions, have been urging a limited attack on Iran because they believe it could lead to a toppling of the religious leadership. “Within the soul of Iran there is a struggle between secular nationalists and reformers, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, the fundamentalist Islamic movement,” the consultant told me. “The minute the aura of invincibility which the mullahs enjoy is shattered, and with it the ability to hoodwink the West, the Iranian regime will collapse”—like the former Communist regimes in Romania, East Germany, and the Soviet Union. Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz share that belief, he said.

“The idea that an American attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities would produce a popular uprising is extremely illinformed,” said Flynt Leverett, a Middle East scholar who worked on the National Security Council in the Bush Administration. “You have to understand that the nuclear ambition in Iran is supported across the political spectrum, and Iranians will perceive attacks on these sites as attacks on their ambitions to be a major regional player and a modern nation that’s technologically sophisticated.” Leverett, who is now a senior fellow at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy, at the Brookings Institution, warned that an American attack, if it takes place, “will produce an Iranian backlash against the United States and a rallying around the regime.”

[.....]

Two former C.I.A. clandestine officers, Vince Cannistraro and Philip Giraldi, who publish Intelligence Brief, a newsletter for their business clients, reported last month on the existence of a broad counter-terrorism Presidential finding that permitted the Pentagon “to operate unilaterally in a number of countries where there is a perception of a clear and evident terrorist threat. . . . A number of the countries are friendly to the U.S. and are major trading partners. Most have been cooperating in the war on terrorism.” The two former officers listed some of the countries—Algeria, Sudan, Yemen, Syria, and Malaysia. (I was subsequently told by the former high-level intelligence official that Tunisia is also on the list.)

Giraldi, who served three years in military intelligence before joining the C.I.A., said that he was troubled by the military’s expanded covert assignment. “I don’t think they can handle the cover,” he told me. “They’ve got to have a different mind-set. They’ve got to handle new roles and get into foreign cultures and learn how other people think. If you’re going into a village and shooting people, it doesn’t matter,” Giraldi added. “But if you’re running operations that involve finesse and sensitivity, the military can’t do it. Which is why these kind of operations were always run out of the agency.” I was told that many Special Operations officers also have serious misgivings.

Rumsfeld and two of his key deputies, Stephen Cambone, the Under-secretary of Defense for Intelligence, and Army Lieutenant General William G. (Jerry) Boykin, will be part of the chain of command for the new commando operations. [and they're fucking crazy -- Dan]

[.....]

“I’m conflicted about the idea of operating without congressional oversight,” the Pentagon adviser said. “But I’ve been told that there will be oversight down to the specific operation.” A second Pentagon adviser agreed, with a significant caveat. “There are reporting requirements,” he said. “But to execute the finding we don’t have to go back and say, ‘We’re going here and there.’ No nitty-gritty detail and no micromanagement.”

The legal questions about the Pentagon’s right to conduct covert operations without informing Congress have not been resolved. “It’s a very, very gray area,” said Jeffrey H. Smith, a West Point graduate who served as the C.I.A.’s general counsel in the mid-nineteen-nineties. “Congress believes it voted to include all such covert activities carried out by the armed forces. The military says, ‘No, the things we’re doing are not intelligence actions under the statute but necessary military steps authorized by the President, as Commander-in-Chief, to “prepare the battlefield.”’” Referring to his days at the C.I.A., Smith added, “We were always careful not to use the armed forces in a covert action without a Presidential finding. The Bush Administration has taken a much more aggressive stance.”

[....]

In some cases, according to the Pentagon advisers, local citizens could be recruited and asked to join up with guerrillas or terrorists. This could potentially involve organizing and carrying out combat operations, or even terrorist activities.

[....]

The new rules will enable the Special Forces community to set up what it calls “action teams” in the target countries overseas which can be used to find and eliminate terrorist organizations. “Do you remember the right-wing execution squads in El Salvador?” the former high-level intelligence official asked me, referring to the military-led gangs that committed atrocities in the early nineteen-eighties. “We founded them and we financed them,” he said. “The objective now is to recruit locals in any area we want. And we aren’t going to tell Congress about it.” A former military officer, who has knowledge of the Pentagon’s commando capabilities, said, “We’re going to be riding with the bad boys.”

[....]

There was pressure from the White House, too. A former C.I.A. clandestine-services officer told me that, in the months after the resignation of the agency’s director George Tenet, in June, 2004, the White House began “coming down critically” on analysts in the C.I.A.’s Directorate of Intelligence (D.I.) and demanded “to see more support for the Administration’s political position.” Porter Goss, Tenet’s successor, engaged in what the recently retired C.I.A. official described as a “political purge” in the D.I. Among the targets were a few senior analysts who were known to write dissenting papers that had been forwarded to the White House. The recently retired C.I.A. official said, “The White House carefully reviewed the political analyses of the D.I. so they could sort out the apostates from the true believers.” Some senior analysts in the D.I. have turned in their resignations—quietly, and without revealing the extent of the disarray.

[....]

“Rummy’s plan was to get a compromise in the bill in which the Pentagon keeps its marbles and the C.I.A. loses theirs,” the former high-level intelligence official told me. “Then all the pieces of the puzzle fall in place. He gets authority for covert action that is not attributable, the ability to directly task national-intelligence assets”—including the many intelligence satellites that constantly orbit the world.

“Rumsfeld will no longer have to refer anything through the government’s intelligence wringer,” the former official went on. “The intelligence system was designed to put competing agencies in competition. What’s missing will be the dynamic tension that insures everyone’s priorities—in the C.I.A., the D.O.D., the F.B.I., and even the Department of Homeland Security—are discussed. The most insidious implication of the new system is that Rumsfeld no longer has to tell people what he’s doing so they can ask, ‘Why are you doing this?’ or ‘What are your priorities?’ Now he can keep all of the mattress mice out of it."

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